SAN FRANCISCO — Female leaders of the cannabis industry in the Bay Area shared their secrets of success with other women who want to stake a claim in the business during a gathering Thursday night hosted by Women Grow.
The networking event featured presentations by women including Lynnette Shaw, the “godmother” of medical marijuana dispensaries; Sherry Glaser, operator of a Mendocino County medical dispensary and “bed, bud and breakfast” inn; and Jazmin Hupp, co-founder and former chief executive officer of Women Grow, the nation’s largest cannabis professional networking organization.
“There is a lot of interest by women to get into this business,” Hupp said in an interview. “The idea of these networking events is to get more people involved. We want to see fresh faces all the time at our meetings.”
Shaw, the founder of Fairfax-based Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the nation’s first marijuana dispensary, recounted her lengthy legal battles against then-presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and her quest to keep the operation alive. Opened in 1996, the North Bay enterprise was the oldest operating marijuana dispensary until it was closed down by court order in 2011. In October 2015, Shaw won a ruling that stated the federal government can’t interfere with, or shut down, medical marijuana dispensaries if they comply with state laws.
“It’s been a pretty amazing journey,” Shaw said. “I was born to do this.”
Cannabis entrepreneurs should do everything they can to comply with state and federal laws, no matter how onerous, byzantine or burdensome they might be, Shaw urged the gathering of about 50 attendees.
“It’s important to legitimize the medical marijuana industry,” Shaw said. “So pay those taxes. Pay those fees. You’re worth more than $100 a day.”
During 2016, the legal elements of the marijuana industry generated $6.7 billion in revenue, according to a report by Arcview Market Research, which tracks the cannabis industry. The 2016 figures were up 34.8 percent from the 2015 totals of $4.97 billion. Arcview estimates the industry should generate $8.18 billion in revenue during 2017, which would be a 21.1 percent increase over last year.
The underground, or illegal, part of the cannabis industry harvests about $11 billion in revenue, Hupp estimated.
Glaser warned the women in attendance that the path to success won’t necessarily be easy.
“Its going to cost more than you expect. It’s going to take longer than you think. But it’s totally worth it,” Glaser said.
Glaser also suggested that entrepreneurs should be free in giving away product samples.
“Be like Johnny Appleseed,” Glaser said. “Just give it away.”
The attendees were greeted by an eclectic musical selection, including the Beatles iconic song “Revolution,” with the lyrics, “You say you want a revolution.” Fragrant marijuana odors wafted through the metal building that hosted the gathering.
Crystin Johnson of Oakland, a sales representative for Fruit Slabs, a Los Angeles-based producer of organic vegan cannabis edibles that are fruit-flavored, said she believes the networking meeting was well worth it.
“The speakers were super inspiring,” Johnson said. “It was awesome and encouraging to see women who have been successful at this.”